Thirty years on, Rubik’s Cube is still cool

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Being a Rubik’s Cube world champion is more about practice than fame and glamour, according to Australia’s 14-year-old cube champion, Feliks Zemdegs.


But at Melbourne’s Hartwell Primary School on Monday, there was just a touch of the rock star about him, as 12-year-old girls hovered for his autograph and proclaimed him to be “awesome”.

Feliks demonstrated his cube skills at the school to honour the 30th anniversary of the humble but timeless Rubik’s Cube.

From go to woe, he solved the cube in 10.44 seconds, almost two seconds short of his world record average time of 8.52 seconds, scored at the New Zealand Championships in July.

But it was still enough to send the students wild.

“Oh my God, that is so cool!” Sarah Lammardo, 12, said, later proclaiming she “just wanted to be like him and be really cool”. And after watching the cube flying deftly into place in Feliks’ expert hands, it was even rated “cooler” than electronic games and gadgets.

“I’m not a big fan of computer games but this is so cool,” Sarah said.

The cube was invented by Hungarian Erno Rubik, who set out to create a model to explain three dimensional geometry.

Launched as Rubik’s Cube in 1980, more than 300 million have been sold worldwide.

Proving it has now crossed the digital divide, Feliks himself first learned of the cube from YouTube when he was 12.

He says the skill is all about pattern recognition and finger dexterity rather than maths and that for him, it was “lots of practice” that’s made him so good.

“In a week I got down to about two minutes, then in a month I was at about one minute and then gradually I got faster.”

The cube is now available as an iPhone application, in its original three-by-three-by-three form and in four-by-four-by-four and five-by-five-by-five models.

Around the world, Rubik’s Cube championship events are held regularly, with records set in categories for every model type, as well as for solving the cube one-handed (11.97 seconds, Chris Dzoan, USA), blindfolded (30.94 seconds, Haiyan Zhuang, China) and with feet (36.72 seconds, Anssi Vanhala, Finland).

Melbourne’s RMIT Rubik’s Cube Club founder Tim McMahon says Feliks originally “copped a lot of flak” when posting his high speed cube-solving videos to YouTube, as people did not believe his times were legitimate. It was not until he broke several records at the July New Zealand Championships that he was accepted.

“Now he’s righteously the world record holder in about five different events,” Mr McMahon said. Feliks’ father, David, says he is hoping more Rubik’s events will begin to spring up in Australia, where very few competitions are held.

He says it is “fantastic” to see his son’s interest in the cube.

“To me I see it as really good brain training and certainly better than spending hours and hours on a Playstation or something like that,” he said.

“We’re very supportive but it does get a bit much sometimes when he’s cubing at the dinner table, or cubing while we’re trying to watch TV or something like that. There are limits.”